Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Day to Give Thanks

I can't believe Thanksgiving is already upon us.  Not that I don't enjoy the Holiday Season, but it seems this day of giving thanks has lost it's identity and become known as the kickoff to the Holiday Season.

I recall the conversation around the Thanksgiving table reflecting things we were grateful for when I was a child.  Now dinner seems to focus on how early one is getting up the next morning to be out shopping and where the best sales are.

I don't think Thanksgiving gets its due these days.  Between money and health, things are tough for so many.  We need a positive day like this to remember what we're thankful for, be it large or small.  Some glimmer of positive sight that will keep us moving forward.  For 2009 here's what I'll remember being thankful for:

Thankful for my health and that all of the tests this year came back negative

Thankful to Champ for tolerating my learning how to ride "correctly"

Thankful to my Hubby, for not going over the edge, wrecking my car and leaving me alone on this earth
(Sorry you didn't get an Elk)

Thankful for our wonderful Daughter

Thankful to Cisco and Sunny and their kind hearts

Thankful to Hero Trainer, for helping me find my confidence

Thankful to my pals at Ladies Night, for all the fun we've had and their encouragement

Thankful for Hank, my buddy and The Bestest Dog

Thankful for family, friends and Cabin Creek Cocktail Parties  :)

Thankful for our home

Hoping You Have A Wonderful Thanksgiving

Saturday, November 14, 2009

My 50+ Pal

When I was a kid ANYBODY who had a horse was doomed to be my "best friend".  Didn't matter whether I liked them or not, they had a horse and by virtue of that I would do ANYTHING to be in their presence.

I recall the first day I met Jayne.  Our family had been invited up to her family's vacation home in the Cascade Mountains.  An old logging town called Cabin Creek, built in the early 1900's and used by the mill workers until the mill shut down.  When they became vacant Jayne's family offered them to close friends to maintain and use as long as they didn't change the exterior of the buildings.  This maintained the mill town as it originally stood and today, over one hundred years later, the cabins stand the same.

I'd been briefed that the family had a daughter about my age and that they had horses.  By the time we arrived, in my six year-old mind Jayne had already become my best friend.  When I got out of the car I thought I'd entered horse heaven.  There was a corral full of horses.  I was told they were used by the grown-ups and the corral was called the "Horse Corral". 

I was told there was also another corral which was called the "Pony Corral".   It hosted two beautiful POA ponies, a sorrel and a buckskin.  I thought I'd died and went to heaven - TWO corrals with horses in them!!

Shortly after our arrival, Jayne's parents requested she take my siblings and I over to ride the ponies.  From her demeanor over to the Pony Corral, it was obvious it wasn't the first time she'd been asked to do this.  She surely wasn't thrilled with the task but she saddled the sorrel named Rusty and of course I elbowed my siblings out of the way and hopped on first. 

It was also not the first time Rusty had been asked to entertain visitors and he promptly dumped me in the dirt.  I landed on my right arm, still sensitive from getting my cast off a few months earlier compliments of my first fall off of a horse.  It hurt and I was sure I'd broken it again.  I began to cry and wanted my Mommy.

I remember Jayne firmly warning (more like threatening) me to not say a word about what had just occurred because Rusty had dumped her months before that and she'd also broken her arm.  She didn't want Rusty to be in trouble.  I wiped my tears and kept my silence.  After all, isn't that what a best friend does?

By the end of that weekend, our family had been offered use of one of the cabins.  We were now part of the Cabin Creek community.  Each time we'd come up, like a magnet I'd run to first see the horses and then off to locate my best friend, Jayne.

Since I'd only ambushed trail riders at home to beg them for rides, I didn't know a thing about taking care of a horse.  Jayne was meticulous about the care of her horses and I was an intent listener.  I followed her around like a dog.  I watched and I learned. 

Fast forward through the years spent with our families at Cabin Creek.  In high school where we stayed up in the mountains for entire summers, swimming in the creek and riding bareback in the cool golden evenings.  On to college together in a cowboy town where she brought along her hot-headed Quarter Horse and I received permission ride a local horse so we could comb the fields together.

Onto our professional lives where we still rode when we could, together at Cabin Creek in the summers or the low lands on her family's property in the winter.  Our lengthy conversations on horseback where we contemplated dumping or keeping boyfriends, the success and disappointments of our careers and later marriages.  We laughed at the joy of our children's births and cried at the loss of our loved ones.

After we were both married our favorite time together included mucking out the low land barn where one now aged pony and a no longer hot-headed horse resided.  We trudged through mid-knee deep muck, sweating, laughing, and happily complaining about whatever struck our fancy.  We always left filthy dirty but content at the smell of clean shavings and knowing we'd done something good for the horses.

The horses and ponies passed away and the corrals at the cabin and the low lands remained empty and began to deteriorate.  My husband and I purchased our first home on the edge of her family's property and with their generosity, it was here where I had grown up riding and mucking out the barn that I brought my first horse home.

After years of standing empty, family and friends rebuilt the Horse Corral at Cabin Creek and we started bringing up our horses with us.  Horses once again became a part of  "Camp".

When our daughter started showing we found ourselves spending most of our weekends out in the country.  On a whim we stopped to look at a place that was For Sale.  Two months later we were moving.  I said goodbye to my wonderful surrogate family who had so generously allowed me keep my horses at their place and to the low lands where Jayne and I had ridden, now filled with houses.

Four years have passed since we moved.  Jayne and I see each other at Cabin Creek and catch up on the phone when we can.  She's been following my adventure with Champ and recently called and asked if she could come out and watch us.  I didn't have to say a thing, she arrived dressed to ride.

After Champ and I went through our paces, I suggested Jayne get on.  She was a bit hesitant but bravely climbed on.  I admire her Grit.  After not riding for so many years I know how tentative she must have felt.  Bless Champ for sensing this and treating her so well.

When Jayne was finished she asked if she could climb back off via the mounting block and I told her I didn't think that was a safe idea.  I held Champ while she slid off.  Since Champ is +16 hands, it's a long way to the ground and as Jayne landed she fell backwards onto her rear and up her backside. 

We both laughed as I helped her up.  I asked Jayne if she knew what she had to do next and she replied, "Yeah, I have to get back on don't I?"  So back up she went and off she rode for a few more minutes before getting down successfully this time.

Later as we unsaddled Champ we talked about being older and the challenges faced in returning to riding.  Jayne is interested in riding again and I've suggested we take lessons together.  We will laugh and cheer each other on.  With the assistance of a trainer it will help Jayne regain her confidence and hopefully keep the experience safe and positive for her.

It's been a long time since Jayne gave that six-year old girl a ride on Rusty.  For almost 50 years she's been there for me, sharing her knowledge and later encouraging me to keep riding and not give up.  Recently she was on the rail at my first horse show, grinning ear to ear.  When we get together and are around horses we return in time to the many wonderful memories we've shared.  Jayne is truly my best friend, my 50+ pal.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

50+ in Storm Mode

The last forty eight hours have been challenging.  My drive home from work Thursday night was an adjustment since I'm still trying to get used to the dark.  After an upper fifty degree day, a low was approaching and driving home that night I faced high winds and heavy rains.

I travel a two-lane highway to/from my office.  A nice rural drive but known for it's many fatalities.  I find myself not as comfortable driving in the dark.  That night, with all the headlights coming towards me, the wind pushing around my car and the heavy rain, my trip home was tough.

Arriving home I barely said hello to my husband as I tossed off my heels and slipped on my muck shoes and rain coat.  Still in my "professional work attire", Hank, our Chocolate Lab and I headed out to check on the horses.  I was in "Storm Mode" but Hank was in "Throw the Ball Mode".  Unfortunately, he didn't get much of that in.

The women who built our place, a past trainer in the area named Sylvia Taylor, put a lot of thought into where she placed the large loafing sheds in each of our pastures.  They are attached to our out building or barn so they are easily accessible for humans.  They are also pointed in directions that meet the demands of any adverse weather up here.  I found our horses warm and dry, comfortably munching their hay.  Since they prefer to be outside, I decided to leave them be.

My next Storm Mode priority was to make sure we'd be ok if we lost power.  At our place no power = no water.  I filled the water trough until it overflowed.  Inside the garage I grabbed my large green buckets.  My husband laughs at my buckets but in our second year up here when we lost power/water for five days, I learned my lesson.  I want to be able to flush the toilet, thank you.

After I filled up the tea kettle in the kitchen (for drinking water or to wash hands), I filled up Hank's water dish and had just enough time to kiss my husband goodbye as he headed out for his annual 4-day hunting trip.  I surely don't begrudge him having his own space but I was not thrilled to have him leaving me this stormy evening.

We are pretty remote and I find myself a little unsettled on the first night I'm alone...well, in this case, I found myself kind of scared.  I could hear the wind roaring outside and the lights kept flickering off and on.  I kept my flashlight and cell phone near me as I moved around the house and Hank stayed close by.  Thankfully I was tired from a day at work and slept pretty well with the exception that I kept thinking I heard large trucks (actually thunder).

Yesterday brought the same weather we had the night before.  I ran some errands in town and on my way home in more wind and now hail, I thought I spotted some of the clouds churning around in a circle.  Later in watching the news they reported a large funnel cloud in our area.  That must have been what I had seen on my way home.  We live in the Cascade Foothills...Hello!!!!?  We had a Tornado touch down over Labor Day weekend and now a funnel cloud?  Don't the Weather Gods know that this is Washington State and we aren't supposed to have weather like this?

Last night Hank and I got the chores done before dark.  He got plenty of ball time in because I was able to stand inside the loafing shed and toss it out into the pasture.  The horses were dry and happy so I left them out again.  Getting up this morning I can see the snow level has dropped and I heard on the news that we should expect a "turbulent day".  Oh really?  What do you call the last twenty four hours?

But what really got my attention was in looking down across the miles of fields around us I don't see a single animal.  No horses, no cattle or even the neighbor's buffalo.  After yesterday's funnel cloud, this was creepy.

So I moved my Storm Mode up a notch, bringing in lots of dry firewood and preparing the barn with water and shavings.  I'm ready to move the horses in a moment's notice.   

My husband returns tomorrow.  Although I'll be glad to see him and even his dirty laundry, I find myself no longer uneasy at being here alone.  For a little bit of time   :)  I won't take his presence for granted.  This experience has been good for me and made me realize how much I depend on him when it comes to chores but also that I can go it alone here if I need to. 

Tonight it's only breezy so the storm must be heading east and things are finally settling down.  Three days ago the trees still had leaves on them.  Tonight when I fed the horses I saw that the trees were now all bare.   Those leaves are probably in Alaska by now from the winds we had. 

Winter is coming and the beautiful Fall we had is over.  The temperature has dropped to the upper 30's.  Tonight is my last night alone so I'll light a fire and some candles, eat whatever I want, watch whatever I want on TV and let Hank sneak up on the couch and cuddle with me.  Life is Grand.  :)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Coffee, Tea or Milk

A recollection of my first rides were being lifted up into a Western saddle.  I was instructed to hang onto the horn whether I was led around or rode in front of some generous rider, probably worn out from my running along next to them begging for a ride.

When I was older we rode bareback.  At 20- we didn't want to take the time to saddle our horses.  We were young and had no fear, or at least much less then I do at 50+.  We rode bareback with hackamores.  We even rode bareback with halters, which accounted for my second broken arm at age 11. 

During those younger years, I tried English while caring for my friend's horses.  It looked interesting so I thought I'd give it a try.  Once I figured out how it worked and got on (it was ugly), I found it comfortable but missed the security of the Western horn in front of me.  This and the fact that I wasn't exposed to any other English saddles left Western as my beverage of choice.

Our Daughter was started in English when she took lessons, eventually moving to Western later.  She has always preferred her beverage to be English and to use two hands when riding.  And indeed when she was showing Champ it was their strongest discipline.

It seems the horse shows I've attended have had a larger turnout for Western then English.  Yet where Champ is boarded the majority of riders prefer English and Dressage and there aren't many of us Western riders (although our numbers have recently been increasing).

I'm curious.  What is (or was) the beverage of your choice?

Did you start with one beverage and then change to another when you got older?  If so, why and what obstacles did you encounter?

Have you ever considered changing?

Daughter's English saddle sits in our tackroom along with the bridle, saddle pads, etc.  I've found a leather strap online that fastens to the front of an English saddle - surely for security if one needs to 'grab leather'.  Comforting to know.  It may not be 2010's goal but surely one I'll want to experience.  How about you?